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I always look at a course before racing it. Previewing a course takes the mystery out of racing and gives you concrete landmarks to focus on during the race. Knowing where the hills are, the corners and the straight stretches, including areas likely to be windy or calm is an integral part of setting up a pacing and racing strategy and getting ready for race day. Over the last two kilometres of the race, as the legs start to tire, knowing how long you have to go is a good way to push through the final moments of discomfort.
Here is my take on the course, with tips for both beginners looking for pacing and completion cues, and more seasoned athletes looking for personal best times.
Pacing: very fit runners will be able to absorb the fast start as their legs will be fresh, and be able to take momentum in the small rollers around Yates and Vancouver, but for beginners I would advise to pace conservatively over the first three kilometres of the course so as not to go out too fast with excitement through town, and leaving too much energy on the early stages. The training you have done should give you some idea of your pace, and if in doubt, start on the easy side and build your way through the race.
Start: It’s easy to get excited here with the beautiful inner harbour adding inspiration to the morning. There will be plenty of spectators on the causeway in front of the Empress and along Government. The first kilometer is open and flat along Government to Yates so a good place for competitive runners to get out to a fast start and for the rest of the pack of runners and walkers to find space and a comfortable pace.
1-3K Mark: A right turn onto Yates at 1 km brings the first uphill stretch of the race and the start of the rolling section which lasts for 2 km. Yates is not a huge incline, and it rises and flattens at Douglas, and again at Blanshard. Runners should be thinking ‘light’ and ‘quick and relaxed’ on the hill, working on getting up the rise effortlessly by using the arms well and breathing deeply. Focus on getting to the end of each block well. Novice racers will want to make sure they are running and walking their own race and not ‘sprinting’ to keep up with others in all the excitement. The end of the first uphill section comes just before 2 km at Quadra, and then there is a fast section down around the corner onto Vancouver. Use gravity and try to carry momentum past View Street and up the hill across Fort and to Burdett, where you get to feel the pull of gravity again as you turn left onto flatter Richardson and get to find your rhythm all the way to Moss Street in the heart of Fairfield.
3-4K Mark: Moss Street is a long straight stretch where runners can really start to find a rhythm and enjoy the race in this beautiful neighbourhood. A sharp left at May Street gives a short 20m uphill surge before a 1 km gradual downhill to Memorial and the Ross Bay Cemetery. For athletes hanging on for personal bests, maintaining contact up this little surge will be important. At this point, just before 5 km, the course bounces you onto beautiful Dallas Rd and at this point, you feel you are racing for home. However…
5-7K Mark: This is where the race typically starts to feel hard and participants should expect discomfort to rise and have prepared some strong positive thoughts here. What’s there not to love about the second 5 km of the TC 10K? The only major hill of the race appears right after the 5 km mark, as runners climb past Clover Point (just keep focussing on the top of the hill, pretending there is a magnet with your name on it, pulling yourself up mentally) to wind their way past the bottom of Cook Street and Beacon Hill Park. This section can be windy and knowing that you might be up against a headwind is always good to anticipate. Work on relaxing and being calm into the wind, and know that everybody has the same wind to deal with.
7K Mark: There will be a lot of cheering around the beautiful Beacon Hill Park and when you get to Mile ‘0’ and the Terry Fox Memorial, you start the wonderful fast downhill to Ogden Point. There is about 3 km to go at this point in the race and you can now start counting down the minutes left until you cross the finish line. Knowing that you have 10 or 15 or 20 minutes left to run is positive information! You should feel gravity working for you in the section (“Fly! Glide!”) As you start your push for the finish, and just past the Duck Pond you will be able to see the tall red and white striped towers of the Coast Guard station less than one kilometre away, which stand at about the 8 km mark of the course.
8K Mark: When you get to Ogden Pt and start the journey through James Bay to the inner Harbour, you should be drawing on all your resources to finish as strongly as possible. You can remind yourself to relax, to focus on good form, recall all the dedication and training you have done to get here, tell yourself to be tough. There is only 2 km to go!
9K Mark: Just before 9 km you can see the massive glass topped condo of Shoal Point. Starting here, at Erie, there are seven (7!) corners to run through before the finish! I try to run through these corners like an elastic band, slingshotting past each one. As you get closer, the roof of the Empress comes into view, then the IMAX sign on the Royal BC Museum. As you round the last bend onto the finishing stretch on Belleville, the old Wax Museum building (now the Robert Bateman Centre) is the last main landmark to focus on, and about halfway between you and the finish, before you round the slight curve and see the finish line banners. With people lining the street, finding energy to finish strong is not a problem! It is often the effort of the last two kilometres that makes your race: how deep into the well can your source your inner and outer strength? Celebrate your efforts and soak it all up!
RunforJoy Founder Lucy Smith is a 6 time Winner of the Times Colonist 10K and 19 time Canadian Champion in running and multisport. She has run various incarnations of the course over the last 20 years and looks forward to testing it out as a 52 year old this year!